UChicago scientists unveil the secret of cancer-associated Warburg effect

Oct 31, 2019

A macrophage (in white) engulfs a cancer cell. When these immune cells respond to infection or tumors, they produce a substance call lactate, which can actually fuel cancer growth.

Featuring newly appointed GGSB Faculty member Yingman Zhao

A new study, led by researchers at the University of Chicago, provides an answer to why cancer cells consume and use nutrients differently than their healthy counterparts and how that difference contributes to their survival and growth.

The study, published in the October 23 issue of Nature, shows that lactate, an end product of metabolism, changes the function of an immune cell known as a macrophage, thereby rewiring it to behave differently.

“What makes the Warburg effect so interesting to study is that it’s an important and common cancer phenomenon, but no one ever understood if this process has regulatory functions on diverse types of cells in a tumor, and how,” said Yingming Zhao, PhD, professor in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research at the University of Chicago and the lead author of the study. “As a technologist and biochemist, I enjoy figuring out how we can answer exciting questions like this and figure out details.”

Learn more about Yingman Zhao's research, new GGSB faculty, at the FOREFRONT